In his June 13 "Media Notes" column, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz quoted Fox News chairman and chief executive officer Roger Ailes claiming that "in his nine years at Fox, 'I've never deleted a word, a phrase, a story.' " Kurtz wrote further: "Unlike Newsweek and the Koran incident, [Ailes] adds, Fox hasn't just done a major retraction."
Last December, Ailes similarly defended the "hard news" reporting at Fox News, claiming that it "is not in question." Despite Ailes's continued claims to accuracy, Media Matters for America has documented a multitude of examples of false, misleading, or distorted reporting from Fox News anchors and reporters -- the vast majority of which have remained uncorrected.
Kurtz also reported Ailes's description of a dispute between Ailes and Newsweek senior editor and columnist Jonathan Alter: "Ailes says Alter asked him for a commentator's job several years ago but balked at being identified as a liberal when Ailes told him, 'I can't pretend you're a straight journalist.' "
Ailes's claim that Fox has "never deleted a word, a phrase, a story" is misleading.
Even if it were true that Ailes has never personally edited Fox's news content, Fox News has replaced words and phrases in Associated Press reports to echo Bush White House terminology. Since April 2002, Fox News has consistently doctored AP reports posted on the Fox News website -- changing the terms "suicide bomber" and "suicide bombing" to "homicide bomber" and "homicide bombing," without editorial notation. In one instance, a quote from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) was altered in this way, and then quietly changed back.
In a December 19, 2004, interview on C-SPAN's Q&A, Ailes stood firmly behind the accuracy of Fox News' "hard news" reporting, claiming that it "is not in question." But Media Matters challenged Ailes's claim on December 23, 2004, and presented numerous instances in which Fox's "hard news" reporters have ignored, distorted, or misrepresented facts. Since December 2004, Fox News anchors and reporters have continued to misreport and twist facts. For example:
- FOX News managing editor and anchor Brit Hume falsely claimed that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt advocated replacing the Social Security system with private investment accounts. In fact, Roosevelt supported "voluntary contributory annuities" to supplement -- not replace -- Social Security benefits. Hume has yet to concede error, despite the fact that President Roosevelt's grandson James Roosevelt Jr. denounced Hume's "outrageous distortion" and called for "a retraction, an apology, maybe even a resignation."
- In reporting on the debate over Social Security reform, Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle fielded numerous distortions and outright falsehoods in order to bolster President Bush's reform proposals, and baselessly attack Democratic opposition.
- Fox News correspondent Brian Wilson has consistently rallied to the defense of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) by downplaying the seriousness of ethics charges levied against DeLay, and mischaracterizing ethics committee rules.
While Ailes reportedly told Alter, "I can't pretend you're a straight journalist," Ailes apparently has no problem pretending his current reporters and anchors are "straight journalists" -- even after they let slip their political affiliations on the air. Speaking with Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) about the so-called "nuclear option" to ban filibusters of judicial nominees, Fox News anchor David Asman asked Lott, "if we should have done it and if we had the votes to do it in the Senate ..." and then quickly corrected himself, saying, "if you guys in the Republican Party did." Fox News host John Gibson similarly revealed his partisan affinities, telling Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, "you're forcing me into the position of being a Democrat here -- which is an uncomfortable shoe for me to wear."
During the 2004 presidential campaign, in what a Fox News representative characterized as a "poor attempt at humor," the cable outlet's then-chief political correspondent Carl Cameron fabricated statements from Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) about a purported manicure he had received, and included them in an October 1, 2004, "Trail Tales" report on the Fox News website. The article was quickly removed from the site, but an archived version exists here.